Project Description


Inspiration for the design of the two lobbies came from the rich architectural heritage of Detroit. The graphic of the original urban plan of Detroit, which encompasses Campus Martius and surrounding streets, was used in the terrazzo floor design and metal wall panels.

The historic First National Building, Detroit’s first hotel (the Russell House) completed in 1922, was in dire need of bringing its 1920s sense of elegance into the 21st century. The owner purchased the building in 2011, and lobby renovations began shortly in August 2011. The East and West lobbies, a 6,235 sf renovation was completed in October 2013.

The existing historical decor within the space also influenced the new interior. The elevators in the horseshoe lobby were originally painted a beautiful gold color with intricate details, and that color was unified throughout the space. The original steel columns were stripped and exposed.

The lobby used to be a place patrons would quickly walk through to get to the elevators and shops, not a place to pause and enjoy. The owner wanted a space that slowed the pace of the lobby. Because of its proximity to Campus Martius, a popular gathering space, there was an opportunity to expand community gatherings into the building. The space now functions as a meeting, resting, eating and special event space.

The new lighting system attached to the ceiling is an engineering marvel because of the thousands of pounds of weight. The plexiglass panels that span across the entire lobby are attached by custom fasteners, affixed by hang points that drop from the ceiling.

Local collaboration is very important to the owner and Detroit provides a wealth of talent to utilize. The project team was able to utilize local artists, craftsman and trades, eliminating the need to outsource materials such as blown glass, wordworking for the wood lattice, and metal screens for the walls.


2014 IES Detroit Lighting Illumination Award, Merit Award
2014 IES Lighting Illumination Award – Special Citation Award for the Use of Lighting as an Art Form